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Gosplan - another argument against OFF

Dear all, 

I've been thinking about this one for a bit and I think it's a useful
rebuttal to the UK govt's position that the humanitarian impact of sanctions
is being significantly ameliorated by the 'Oil-for-food' deals.

Most people in the advanced capitalist countries think that
centrally-planned state-dominated economies are hopelessly inefficient. And,
as far as I'm concerned, they are right. The undemocratic market may produce
a chaotic and amoral world, but the undemocratic central plan produced
states that were chaotic, amoral, and significantly poorer (despite their
neat lines in motorcycles, fighter jets, microfilm readers, and spacecraft).

But the OFF programme, with its demand that the government of Iraq orders
*everything* necessary for the functioning of the economy through one
central point, is the enforced creation of a centrally-planned economy on a
grand scale, one which is being asked to provide basic needs for around 20
million people. Nobody - least of all the FCO for whom the 'free maket' has
been basic orthodoxy for decades - should be surprised, then, that it is not
working. Or rather, that it is working, but only very badly, and in way that
is subject to intermittent interruptions through organisational and
insitutional failure. Like Gosplan - but with fewer initial advantages, and
very little black market to oil the wheels. 

Expecting a complex industrial economy with 20 million people in it (not
counting the north) to be able to work as efficiently as a refugee camp
containing a tenth of one percent of that number, is ludicrous. Of course it
isn't working. This is not to absolve the Iraqi regime from any
politically-motivated moves to distibute aid on the basis of loyalty rather
than need(however much the morality of these moves seems to mirror that of
the EU in Serbia). But above and beyond the Ba'athists' deliberate attempts
to manipulate aid, there are profound structural reasons why the Iraqi
economy will remain screwed up no matter how much oil they are allowed to
pump. Just ask the Harvard Business School.

There is no conceiveable way that Iraq could move to any kind of free
economy (capitalist or worker-controlled) while 661 is still in place -
otherwise, every single enterprise would be subject to maddening bureacratic
delays that would apply to all their imports. The economy would grind to a

So, can we use the slogan '661 committee = Gosplan', or is it too obscure? I
think that we ought to use the above argument on UK and US representatives,
for whom it may well have some resonance. Can anyody spot any holes in it,
before I wheel it out for public consumption? Even little ones?


Chris Williams
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